A clean slate starting from scratch gave Sumari Krige a chance to give this St Francis Bay beach home a fresh, contemporary feel.
Looking around this everything-in-its-place St Francis Bay beach home, you’d never imagine that, only two years before, the house had burnt down in a fire. Completely gutted with nothing salvageable barring a couple of books, the owners – a Pretoria- based couple – had to rebuild their home from the ground up. The silver lining in the tragedy of losing all their belongings was an opportunity for the owners to create something new – different from their permanent home and the beach house that came before. Something that would last. Guided by this goal, La Grange Interiors’ Sumari Krige conceptualised a series of spaces that would work equally as well for the couple when they are on their own as they would when the family visits en masse – the couple’s children and grandchildren are regular guests and the hope is that they’ll continue to holiday here well into the future. By the time Sumari came on board, the house had already been rebuilt, right down to the finishes – an eight-month process, which, in building terms, is a staggeringly short time. ‘When the owners gave me the date they were planning to move in, I thought there was no way it would be done, but amazingly we did meet the deadline,’ comments Sumari. She puts this down to the owners’ phenomenal architect Wilhelm Lochner and the ultra-efficient on-site construction team. The neutral shell they created lent itself beautifully to the La Grange Interiors aesthetic, which is famous for mixing contemporary and classic elements. This signature timelessness, although always fairly streamlined, was further simplified by virtue of the fact that Sumari was starting from scratch. ‘Even though the owners wanted an uncluttered look, this project is probably even more pared down than the brief they gave because we had no existing furniture to work with,’ she explains. ‘So there’s nothing superfluous.’ Inspired by the Dutch masters of understatement, Piet Boon and Marcel Wolterinck, and cued by the cool hues of the lagoon (grey rather than blue, refreshingly), she chose colours ranging from slate to ash and layered them, playing with light by using the different shades – what the French refer to as ‘ton sur ton’. These she broke up with the occasional graphic pattern, which sits comfortably with her signature contemporary-classic hybrid style.
The neutrality of the palette is both cued by, and is a cue towards, the scenery. ‘The setting is so lovely that we didn’t want to detract, or even distract from it,’ explains Sumari. This rationale also paved the way for low-profile pieces that keep the field of vision open – sofas sit low to the floor, flanked by groups of movable occasional tables, making the pitched-roof spaces seem even airier and more open.
Contemporary but not cold, Sumari has made sure that the sparseness of the space is tempered by texture. The unfinished edges of linen throws and exposed seams of cushions add just the right note of organic accessibility – it’s smart, but not at all sterile. A good example of this made manifest is the slick seating solution in the dining room, where the black-wood-and-leather chairs combine the best elements of a leather sofa and a simple frame. ‘I wanted to cater for all needs without compromising on design,’ she explains of the symbiotic relationship between comfort, practicality and visual integrity throughout. ‘Leather is sophisticated, but easy to clean and comfortable,’ she adds. ‘Aside from that, I’m also having a real moment with tan leather – I love just a hint of it combined with monotones.’ But the versatility she’s created extends beyond a visual universality. The design is engineered to be user- and family-friendly. This comes in the form of multipurpose furniture and even rooms. When it’s just the owners in the house, for example, they needn’t rattle around feeling like the space is too big – their wing can be used in isolation from the rest of the bedrooms. ‘I didn’t want them to have to leave a room to do some work or for rooms to only have one function,’ elaborates Sumari. So, instead of being purely display-orientated, a decorative table at the end of a sofa in the living room can just as easily play host to a laptop. Likewise, a daybed in one of the bedrooms can allow a small child to bunk in with their parents. This kind of detail is what makes a home really livable rather than remotely beautiful, something that Sumari understands well.
TEXT: JULIA FREEMANTLE | PHOTOGRAPHS: ELSA YOUNG